Responding to the ongoing global chip shortage and a severely disrupted semiconductor supply chain, IC makers are jumping at the opportunity to collaborate with customers to both increase chip inventories and boost profits.
A prime example is the recent announcement by GlobalFoundries and Ford Motor Co. to collaborate on expanding chip inventories for the carmaker and the broader U.S. automotive industry. The partnership includes a non-binding agreement that would enable GlobalFoundries to assume semiconductor research and production for Ford’s current vehicle lineup.
The deal would open the door for chip advancements in battery management, self-driving systems and in-car data networking. Earlier, Ford announced it would redesign components to incorporate more widely-available devices. It also hinted at plans for supply deals with U.S.-based foundries that design and produce wafers.
The partnerships underscore U.S. chipmakers’ need for greater control over the semiconductor supply chain. Companies are “moving production closer to home, or in some cases in-house,” the Wall Street Journal recently noted.
Shipping delays and bottlenecks have also put additional pressure on chipmakers to enhance their self-reliance. That remains a difficult proposition in a highly integrated, global industry in which chip design, fabrication assembly are spread over several continents.
“No country currently has the entire production stack in its own territory,” Jan-Peter Kleinhans and Nurzat Baisakova wrote in a research paper.
“Instead, the semiconductor value chain relies on collaboration and trade between the United States, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Europe and China,” they noted.
Facilitating in-house chip design and production is among the initial hurdles for achieving chip manufacturing autonomy, Ford CEO Jim Farley noted in an interview with The Verge.
The chip shortage prompted Ford to remove satellite navigation from some of its models. Other auto makers have followed suit.
For example, BMW temporarily removed touchscreen functionality from the center display of its 3-Series sedan, 4-Series coupe, convertible, and other models. General Motors removed its “Super Cruise” technology from its Escalade SUV while Porsche dropped its electric steering column adjustment capabilities.
Continued shortages of basic semiconductor supplies, such as used to connect CPU components, add to what appears to be a long-term supply crisis. Exacerbating the situation are global shipping limitations, natural disasters and chip hoarding.
IC manufacturers, nevertheless, remain hopeful as they draft plans to invest in areas such as ABF substrate production. For example, Intel has expanded its substrate partnerships to include Ibiden, Semco, AR&S, and Unimicron. Meanwhile, Nvidia plans to offer competitive prices to ABF substrate production companies that can meet current demand.